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Q&A with Jay Perman

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Jay Perman

Ask Jay Perman a question and you’ll get an answer – an answer that is likely well thought  out  and  documented  with  an  ample amount of facts and figures. He also will make his views very clear. He recently took the reins of the Maryland universities and he spoke with The Business Monthly about a wide variety of subjects.

What’s USM’s in-state and out-of-state student enrollment?

While the numbers vary from institution to institution, undergraduate enrollment systemwide is more than 80 percent in-state. Total enrollment systemwide for undergraduate and graduate students is just about 80 percent in-state.

How does USM plan to get more Maryland high school graduates?

The USM is the state’s top provider of higher education degrees. More than 172,000 students are enrolled in our universities and we confer nearly 80 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in Maryland. Plus, with research universities, comprehensive institutions, historically black institutions and one of the world’s leading online universities, we offer options that appeal to every student.

But we’re always trying to serve Maryland learners more effectively. We partner with K-12 schools to operate dual-enrollment programs so that students can get a head start on college credits and we offer college-readiness courses to ensure that high schoolers are prepared for the rigors of postsecondary education.

We’re also partnering with Maryland’s community colleges to expand our 2+2 programs, allowing graduates of the state’s two-year colleges to seamlessly transfer into one of our institutions for another two years, then graduate with their bachelor’s degree.

And, finally, there’s the simple [physical] growth of our universities, along with the virtual expansion we’re pioneering with the Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation.

How can USM graduate more students?

The latest data show that 72 percent of the system’s first-time, full-time students graduated from one of our institutions within six years (higher education’s standard graduation rate measure). And we continue to make strong progress in this area. That figure is up from 69 percent four years earlier.

It’s important to note that these increases came while the overall number of new students also climbed. With better student success and more students enrolled, we saw good growth in the number of degrees awarded.

However, there’s certainly room for improvement. We’re working with high schools and community colleges to get students college-ready and reduce the need for remediation, which too often ends in dropouts. Support for first-year students is so important because it’s at that stage – between first and second fall – that we lose so many students.
We’re also making sure we provide adequate financial aid packages.

How does USM help students avoid excessive debt?

Affordability is one of the system’s top priorities and it’s a personal priority of mine. Fifteen years ago, Maryland had the sixth highest tuition and fees in the nation. Today, in-state tuition and fees for our public four-year institutions has dropped to 24th. Our costs are now below the national average.

For the past several years – with bipartisan support in Annapolis – the system has limited tuition increases to two percent for in-state undergrads. Last year alone, USM awarded $161 million in institutional financial aid, with more than half of this aid given to students with unmet financial need. Today, almost half of all USM undergraduate students graduate without any debt.

How is USM working with the business community?

The Kirwan Center has engaged business in an initiative called Badging Essential Skills for Transitions (B.E.S.T.). The point is to develop credentials to help bridge the gap between students’ accomplishments in college and their workplace readiness, with a focus on critical non-technical skills.

How is USM promoting entrepreneurship?

We’ve incorporated entrepreneurial activity into the criteria by which we evaluate faculty for promotion and tenure. The USM Office of Economic Development works with a range of programs to help entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses get a foothold in the marketplace. For instance, I-Corps trains entrepreneurs in customer discovery to uncover market potential.

Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) supports Maryland tech companies that team with USM faculty to develop products or services. MIPS funding actually helps pay for the university research.

And, UM Ventures adds resources to de-risk and advance the system’s most promising technologies in medical devices, health informatics, and so on. The system’s Maryland Momentum Fund invests directly in USM startups.

We’ve invested in 12 companies through the fund so far, with $3.75 million committed. That money’s been matched 4-to-1 by co-investors. Plus, we help our faculty and startups access considerable state resources – those from, e.g., TEDCO and Maryland Commerce.

How will the Maryland Quantum Alliance promote collaboration?

The alliance is based on the idea that collaboration among academia, the private sector and government is essential to developing quantum technologies and training the quantum workforce of tomorrow. The point is to create opportunities for large and small companies – like Lockheed Martin, Amazon Web Services and IonQ.

How does UMCP promote its Cyberhonors program?

UMCP’s Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students (ACES) was launched in 2013 with a major gift from Northrop Grumman Corp. It’s the nation’s first cyberse-curity honors program for undergraduates. ACES offers a tight-knit, living-learning program for freshmen and sophomores and an academic minor for upperclassmen of all majors.

What do you think about UMCP joining the Big Ten?

I believe deeply in the value of extracurricular activities. Athletics, like the arts, are often an integral part of a student’s college experience, as a participant and a spectator.

In terms of the development around the campus, it shows how far universities have come in connecting to their communities in throwing off the insular reputation academia has had for so long. And it’s definitely instigated important conversations about how we build local economies that are inclusive of our neighbors and lift them up, rather than push them out.

What’s your take on the Kirwan Commission?

I think it’s safe to say that the Kirwan recommendations will establish Maryland as a national leader in education reform, in part because they’re so comprehensive – they take a pre-K through college/career approach.

Improving education requires investment. The key is to monitor how well the investments are working and to build into the Kirwan model flexibility, accountability and transparency so that Maryland citizens can see what their money is returning.

By Mark Smith | Senior Writer | The Business Monthly| April 2020 Issue

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